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IVC's applied sciences prepare students for real world

May 18, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — Nothing could be more accurate than the motto of Imperial Valley College's applied science division: "Where your career begins."

The applied science divisions specializes in career preparation, offering both degree and certified programs.

Their division covers a variety of courses, ranging from administration of justice to business to consumer education to industrial technology to nursing and health technologies.

Division Dean Gonzalo Huerta said students in the programs tend to be in their late 20s.

"The population we're serving is not necessarily (recent) high school graduates. They're working adults," said Huerta.

With a name change in the spring 2000, the applied science division became a program much more than it was previously as the vocational education department.

"Applied science is based on the idea of clusters, cluster careers," said Huerta, "For example, in construction there are so many different components like cement, electrical, etc."


He explained a student interested in construction could study the various components to construction in the applied sciences division.

The difference between vocational education and applied sciences is "applied sciences is more specific," said Huerta.

"Vocational education brings concept of shop class, and the perception has changed. In applied sciences students are learning how to apply what they're learning," he added.

Leonard Fabian, IVC director of work force development, noted, "It is not just a name change. It's more than that. It's a new level of awareness, a new dignity and a responsiveness to standards and the community."

Huerta added, "working in trades has a lot of dignity. There's always a need and applied sciences fills the need."

Applied science students have an advantage in that since they are studying for a specific career, rather than an academic degree, they become marketable in their field.

"We don't function without knowing the business and industry needs," said Huerta.

He noted the recent addition of a heating/ventilation/air-conditioning program to the applied science division specifically created in response to local businesses and a need in the community.

Cathy Kennerson, chief executive officer of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, recognized the needs filled by IVC.

"When the chamber is looking at economic development and looking at target industries, we have to ask ourselves if we have the skilled laborers for that industry," said Kennerson.

The key, said Kennerson, is "the educational systems and programs. We can't bring in new businesses without skilled laborers."

Kennerson said businesses and education must work closely together. She used the IVC nursing program as an example.

"There is a shortage throughout the United States of nurses, so to continue nursing is vital," said Kennerson, "as well as mechanics, especially in this area where we have a need for repair of vehicles that are older."

"I am confident that IVC will continue to … meet the needs," Kennerson said.

She added IVC is a member of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp., a new non-profit organization created to market the Imperial Valley to businesses and industries.

"Once IVEDC attracts the businesses, then it's up to the cities and county to move forward with that," said Kennerson.

She thinks since IVC is a part of IVEDC, it will provide the laborers needed for whatever businesses the agency attracts.

Huerta and Fabian are active members of various other workforce and economic development committees on the state and regional levels.

Huerta noted the applied sciences division, "validates students who want to work."

Huerta said there is often a "lack of awareness" in our society, which doesn't place "emphasis on what makes the world go around and that is infrastructure. Infrastructure is what makes the world go around."

He used examples of infrastructure workers such as electricians, plumbers, trash collectors and airplane mechanic, without whom it would be difficult to live daily life.

The uniqueness of the department is it teaches basic educational skills along with employability skills.

"There's a relevance to what they're studying," said Huerta.

He added the students are "competent in the core of their major and are good potential employees."

The applied sciences division offers various state certifications for students who want to work while studying.

The division offers a "cooperative work experience," in which a participating student may work in a given field and earn college credit at the same time.

It's purpose is to "integrate their classroom learning into a real work environment," states a brochure for the program.

Other students may opt to take a class, pass the certification and work for awhile before continuing their education.

The certification is a "validation by the industry they represent," said Huerta.

The curriculum of any course is based entirely on industry standards.

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